The California legal system understands the difficulty caused by violent and abusive partners, especially when children are involved. There has been legislative recognition of the fact that decisions under these circumstances are often made under duress, and the best path forward may not be agreed upon. If the parents can come to agreement on custody and visitation rights, then their proposal will be considered by the court, and as a general rule it will be granted. If they cannot, then the court will examine the facts of the case and make its ruling.
In California, the best interest of the child is the paramount consideration in child custody and visitation proceedings. A judge in a California family court will not consider a parent moving away from a violent or abusive partner to be inappropriate or prejudicial towards the award of child custody to the parent that was threatened. The credible threat of violence is also sufficient reason to leave.
This will be the case even if the fleeing parent was forced to leave their child or children with the abusive parent. So long as the absence is short, and the parent makes it clear that they wish to maintain their relationship with any child who was left behind, the judge will not assume that there was any attempt to abandon the child. If the fleeing parent tries to communicate with the children, and the other parent interferes or prevents this in some way, then this will be considered by the judge.
An attorney can be a welcome advocate for a parent who is in a child custody dispute with an adversarial or abusive partner. The attorney can demonstrate that refusing custody to the abusive parent would be in the child's best interests.